The trade store (1884)

Fort St. James National Historic Site

The trade store is a reconstructed building, as the original burnt down in 1919. The trade store was rebuilt because it is such an important part of Fort St James, being in fact, the heart of the fur trade operation.

In the early years things did not always work out the way the fur traders intended. The Carrier people quickly discovered they could get most of the things they wanted from the trade store without ever bringing in furs. This was because the traders were in such desperate need of salmon and traded them from the Carrier in huge quantities. To encourage the trapping and trading of furs, the Company eventually adopted a policy to accept only furs in trade for the most valued store items, such as blankets or metal pots.

The relationship between the Carrier trappers and the fur traders was often a difficult one. The basic concepts Europeans had about trade were fundamentally different from those of the Carrier. This led to many misunderstandings, especially around debt and gift-giving. While the trade account books record the recurring frustration of the traders, it is likely that the fur trappers were often equally frustrated and disagreed about ‘who' owed ‘what' to ‘whom.' Probably the root of the misunderstandings was that, while the Carrier saw trade as primarily a social act, the fur trade companies saw it, first and foremost, as a business transaction.

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